Ukrainian international broadcasting in 2023: strengthening of the broadcasting network, growth of foreign viewership, new platforms, milestone premieres 

In 2023, the state-owned enterprise IBMPU (FREEDOM, Dim, UATV English, UATV Arabic, UATV Español, The Gaze) expanded and strengthened its broadcasting network abroad, launched two new brands and more than two dozen premiere projects, and broadcast 7900 hours of premiere content in various languages. The number of views on the SE IBMPU’s YouTube platforms amounted to 673 million over the year, and the number of new subscribers was 890 thousand.

In 2023, the priority tasks for Ukrainian state international broadcasting on all platforms of the State Enterprise IBMPU were: spreading Ukrainian narratives and establishing the subjectivity of the Ukrainian state in the global media space; prompt and systematic delivery of information about Russia’s war against Ukraine and its genocidal nature to various target audiences abroad; communication of Ukraine as an authentic European state that fights not only for the right to life and freedom of its citizens, but also for the security and basic values of the democratic world, and has high potential for sustainability and recovery; countering anti-Ukrainian myths of Russian propaganda; popularization of Ukraine, its value priorities, multinational culture and history as an organic part of the Western civilization. 

Over the past year, in the context of decreased media attention to Ukraine in the world and increased Russian propaganda, the channels of the State Enterprise IBMPU maintained high rates of views abroad and the attention of various target audiences. In particular, on YouTube, the content of Ukrainian international broadcasting on the platforms of the State Enterprise IBMPU* was viewed 673 million times in 2023, with the total number of views as of December 2023 being 1.5 billion, the number of subscribers increased by 890 thousand to 2.5 million**. Also, on the platforms of FREEDOM, Dim, UATV English, UATV Arabic, UATV Español and The Gaze, the State Enterprise IBMPU broadcast 7900 hours of premiere product in Ukrainian, Russian, English, Spanish and Arabic. In 2023, more than two dozen premieres were broadcast, including: “I Will Not Forget”, “Identity Code”, “Treasures of the Nation”, “From the Heart of Europe”, “ Chornobyl 2022”, “Checkpoint Show”, “Decolonization”, “Our Time”, “February for a Year”, “Hidden Angle”, “Sisters”, “EuroGames”, “It Will Work Out”, “It’s Not Harmful to Dream”, “Weapons of War”, “Paper City. Kherson a year after liberation”, ‘Home is where you are’, ‘Poetic Ukraine’ and others.

“It is important that in 2023, international broadcasting maintained and strengthened the attention of foreign viewers to Ukraine, which we received in 2022 due to such a terrible event as Russia’s full-scale invasion. The digital platforms of all our brands showed a high increase in subscribers and views, primarily due to the foreign audience. The State Enterprise IBMPU was strengthened institutionally, we launched two new media – the English-language platform The Gaze and the Spanish-language YouTube channel UATV.Español, and broadcast almost eight thousand hours of premiere content and more than two dozen new projects. Last year, we also expanded the international distribution network of the FREEDOM TV channel and did a lot of preparatory work to build such a network for the Dim channel. In 2024, we already have the first visible results here. Among the priorities of international broadcasting this year are expanding the language line of our brands, strengthening the attention of foreign audiences to Ukraine not only in the context of the war unleashed by Russia, in particular, strengthening topics and launching new projects that convey the image of modern Ukraine as an authentic multinational European state with a rich history and culture,” says Yulia Ostrovska, Director General of the State Enterprise IBMPU.

In 2023, the highest viewership among foreign language media brands was achieved by the FREEDOM channel, which reaches more than 200 million Russian-speaking people around the world. Last year, the number of subscribers to the FREEDOM YouTube channel, the channel’s main digital platform, crossed 1 million. The FREEDOM YouTube channel was the first among the YouTube channels of Ukrainian state and public broadcasters to receive the Golden Play Button. In total, the number of subscribers to the YouTube channels of the State Enterprise IBMPU FREEDOM and FREEDOM.LIVE in 2023 exceeded 1.7 million (+ 667 thousand for the year), and the total number of views was 1.1 billion, including 552 million in 2023. During the year, the share of YouTube views from abroad increased to 91.8% in December, from Russia to 61%. Top countries by YouTube views in 2023: Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and Germany. The top cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Yekaterinburg, and Nizhny Novgorod. At the same time, in October, when FREEDOM paid considerable attention to covering Israel’s fight against HAMAS and Russia’s partnership with terrorist regimes, Israel was among the top countries by YouTube views for the first time.

After two years on the air, FREEDOM has become a key Ukraine-centered TV channel in Russian for a foreign audience. In the first days of the full-scale invasion, FREEDOM went on the air in the format of an information marathon, which remains its core product. At the same time, in 2023, the State Enterprise IBMPU strengthened the program content of FREEDOM with lines of analytical, documentary, and publicistic projects of its own production. A number of premieres were aired, focusing on events and phenomena that can contribute to the transformation processes in Russia, the collapse of the empire, and the decolonization of its indigenous peoples. These projects include “Treasures of the Nation,” “The People,” “Decolonization,” and “Crises of Russia.” Grozny, Makhachkala, Ufa, Almaty, and Kazan are among the top cities in terms of views of these projects. High viewing rates are received by episodes devoted to the historical fate of the peoples of the Caucasus, in particular Chechnya and Dagestan, Tatars and Bashkirs. In 2023, the FREEDOM team increased its focus on Ukrainian items on the international agenda, the strength of the international coalition in support of Ukraine, and countering Russian narratives. Also, FREEDOM adapted and broadcast various high-profile investigations and documentary projects in Russian. For example, the Kyiv Independent’s investigation “Children for Putin” about the abduction of Ukrainian children from Mariupol and “Children who will never” about the systematic and deliberate killing of Ukrainian children by the Russian occupiers.
Over the past year, the videos of the FREEDOM channel have repeatedly hit the trends in the Russian, Kazakh, Estonian, Latvian, and Belarusian segments of YouTube. Among the topics of greatest interest to the Russian-speaking audience abroad were statements and addresses by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and events with his participation; materials related to international events and the world’s support for Ukraine; the truth about the losses of the Russian army in Ukraine and information on how Russians can avoid mobilization; news about the situation at the front; coverage of FRL and RVC raids in the Belgorod region of the Russian Federation and the mutiny of Yevgeny Prigozhin; information about the consequences of Russian missile attacks on civilians. The most popular video on the YouTube channels FREEDOM and FREEDOM.LIVE last year was an emotional statement by a World War II veteran about the war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine: “Putin should be hanged and killed. This is genocide.” In total, the video was viewed over 8.5 million times on the two channels, with over 90% of views coming from abroad. The same video received high views on the UATV.English channel 245 thousand, most of them from the United States – 18.1%; the United Kingdom – 12.9%; and Germany – 7.1%.

In 2022, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which shocked the democratic world, the FREEDOM coverage network expanded rapidly: the number of satellites increased from 2 to 6, and the number of countries where the channel is present in cable, OTT and IPTV networks increased from 24 to 44. In 2023, the work was focused on expanding and strengthening this network. Over the past year, the State Enterprise IBMPU signed agreements on broadcasting FREEDOM with almost forty companies in eleven European countries, including Slovakia, Denmark, Moldova, Norway, Georgia, Bulgaria, Portugal, and the Baltic States.

For the Dim TV channel, 2023 was the first year during which the channel was fully broadcast in the updated format. The channel was relaunched in Ukrainian in September 2022, and several successful premieres were aired at the same time, including “I’ll Wait” with Lily Rebryk, “Quiet Evening” with Olena Kravets, “Stronghold” with Svitlana Leontieva, “Morning at Home”, #Muz_Defense, “Sports Circle” and others. In 2023, the channel’s team launched the premiere lines “I Will Not Forget” with Iryna Khomenko, “The Roadblock Show” with Volodymyr Shumko, “Identity Code” with Svitlana Leontieva, and others. In June, the YouTube channel of Dim gained its first 100 thousand subscribers and received the Silver Button.  By the end of 2023, the number of subscribers reached 180 thousand (+141 thousand) and the number of views reached 85 million (75.5 million in 2023). Among the most popular videos in 2023 were those from the projects “I Will Wait,” “I Will Not Forget,” “Quiet Evening” with Olena Kravets, and #Muz_Defense: a meeting between a mother and her eldest son after a year of being apart; a heartwarming moment when a military father holds his newborn daughter for the first time; the story of an unbreakable Ukrainian girl whose father died at the front and who has already raised funds for several cars for the Armed Forces; and the story of a mother looking for her dead son.  In 2024, the channel also plans to air a number of premieres of new projects, series and films. The main task for 2024 for the channel is to develop an international distribution network. In February-March of this year, Dіm has already started broadcasting via the Hot Bird 13G satellite and became available on the networks of several international and national OTT, IPTV, and cable operators, including Kartina.TV, Tivùsat, Gonet.TV, and Etisalat, which was made possible thanks to the preparatory work carried out in 2023.

In 2023, the UATV.English YouTube channel remained a trusted source of information about Russia’s war against Ukraine and other significant events in Ukraine for English-speaking audiences abroad. UATV.English‘s growth peaked in 2022: +300 thousand subscribers, +208 million views. In 2023, the channel maintained the interest of the English-speaking audience in events in Ukraine: the number of subscribers reached 410 thousand (+70 thousand for the year), the number of views – 273 million (+52 million in 2023). The UATV.English YouTube channel has the highest reach in countries that are key allies of Ukraine. The top five countries in terms of views in 2023 were the United States (27.9%), the United Kingdom (12.8%), Canada (8.3%), and Australia (4.9%), with views from Ukraine amounting to less than 1% (0.7%).

The UATV English editorial team prepares daily breaking news about Russia’s war against Ukraine and other high-profile events. In 2023, the channel launched live broadcasts from its Kyiv studio, “From the Heart of Europe” with Anna Nytchenko and the “Weapons of War” project about weapons that help Ukrainians defend themselves. The channel airs exclusive special reports from Ukrainian foreign correspondents from the hot spots on the frontline; sets of interviews; “Wrap-up” information summaries of the day and week; statements and addresses of the President of Ukraine. UATV English’s viewers are drawn to news about events at the front and Western weapons, statements and confessions of Russian prisoners of war, special reports on countering Russian propaganda, projects on decolonization of the peoples of the Russian Federation, including the English-language version of “The Nation” program. In 2023, a video of Spanish soldiers saying goodbye to their Ukrainian comrades who had completed their training in Spain and were heading home received 2.5 million views on the UATV.English YouTube channel, including 15.1% from the United States; 9.8 from the United Kingdom; and 9.5% from Germany.

In 2024, UATV English is going to expand its own production line. A memorandum of cooperation has already been signed with TROMEDIA to provide the audience with even more information about the military situation in Ukraine and the threats posed by Russia to other European countries.

The work of UATV.Arabic, a Ukrainian international broadcasting channel, was focused on informing Arabic-speaking viewers about the aggressive nature of Russia’s war against Ukraine. In 2023, the channel received 3.5 million views, a total of 195 thousand (+10,646 in 2023). The channel’s main audience is concentrated in the following countries: Algeria (16.9%), Iraq (11.3%), and Morocco (8.9%).  The Arabic channel’s Facebook page is also popular: 275 thousand subscribers, more than 10 million coverage, 18 million views. The main audience of Facebook. Arabic comes from the following countries: Algeria (18.6%), Iraq (13.1%), Morocco (12.6%).

In 2023, Ukrainian international broadcasting launched two new media brands: the English-language digital portal The Gaze and the Spanish-language YouTube channel UATV Español.

The Gaze was launched on June 2, 2023. The new English-language media combines a website and digital platforms on YouTube, Facebook, and X. Its mission is to introduce the Western audience to the phenomenon of New Europe and Ukraine as its component, to create an information space in which Ukrainian narratives, heroes, and stories are organically presented through topics that are interesting and understandable to residents of English-speaking countries. The Gaze digital platform consists of three key blocks: news feeds, analytics, and videos. In 2023, The Gaze launched the political talk show “Talk For More” with Henry Keane and “Talk For More. Live” with Caroline Ashion; the puppet news show “Hidden Angle” with the duck Mr. Quack; the cooking show “Chefs Next Door”; the satirical project on the edge between real politics and absurdity “European Edge”, which awarded Tucker Carlson the title “Idiot of the Week” long before the scandalous American blogger’s interview with the Russian dictator; “Shunned History”, a historical project that disproves anti-scientific myths, fakes, and stereotypes about European countries, Ukraine, and Ukrainians. In six months of its work, The Gaze YouTube channel gained 22 thousand subscribers and over 3.5 million views. In 2023, the share of the audience from the UK was 73%, from Ireland – 11.7%, and from the US – 4.1%. The most popular video was one of the episodes of the puppet entertainment news show “Hidden Angle”, which satirized Elon Musk and his call to Putin. Now The Gaze team is working on several premieres and a significant update of the production line.

In September, UATV Español, a Spanish-language YouTube channel, was launched, primarily aimed at the audience of Latin American countries where federal Russian TV channels continue to be active. In four months of 2023, the channel’s content was viewed almost a million times (as of March 2024, 1.7 million views), most of which came from Ecuador (26%), Argentina (21.9%), and Venezuela (21.8%). UATV Español‘s viewing statistics show the interest of Spanish-speaking viewers in the personal stories of Ukraine’s defenders from Latin America, in stories covering the issues of armament for the Ukrainian army, international assistance and support for Ukraine. Already at the start of the project, the content of UATV Español consisted of both adapted information materials from other channels of the State Enterprise IBMPU and unique content aimed at the Spanish-speaking audience. In 2024, the plans are to increase the share of unique content and launch new projects. In January-February, we launched the program “Cosas en común” with Daryna Tkachenko about Ukrainian culture and history and points of contact between Ukraine and Latin America; the analytical project “Análisis detallado”; and our own interviews.

For various media brands, the State Enterprise IBMPU is actively developing social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, TikTok, X, taking into account the specifics of target audiences and the content of each brand. As of the end of 2023, the number of accounts was 35, the total number of subscribers – over 4.2 million.

In 2023, the State Enterprise IBMPU held several artistic competitions, including a competition for projects for the production of fiction television series, films, TV movies, documentaries, series and cycles, and short films. Funding for film series production aimed at a wide audience was the state’s response to the growing demand of Ukrainian viewers for content on contemporary topics of various genres. It was motivated by the need to strengthen our creative independence and counter Russian propaganda, which is growing and entering the Ukrainian media space, including through fiction, as well as the need for various formats to support the mental health of Ukrainians. The winners were well-known producers of the Ukrainian audiovisual industry. A total of 37 projects were filmed, reflecting the realities of Ukrainian life and showing different aspects of the lives of citizens of the country at war. In order to make this content available to the widest possible range to Ukrainians, at the end of the year, the State Enterprise IBMPU asked TV channels, OTT platforms, and distribution companies to join the cooperation in its distribution. Since the beginning of 2024, several premieres have already taken place on various Ukrainian TV channels, as well as on the air and on the digital platforms of the Dim TV channel. The first show to premiere was the lyrical comedy “New Year’s Mess” starring Andriy Isayenko, Anastasia Tsymbalaru and Ostap Stupka. The series has already been viewed over 2.5 million times on the Dim YouTube channel, and for several days it was at the top of the Ukrainian YouTube trends.

In 2023, the State Enterprise IBMPU launched a number of humanitarian initiatives, events, and information campaigns aimed at strengthening the resilience of society during the war, mutual assistance in difficult circumstances, support for Ukrainian defenders, and rescue of Ukrainian children. Several information campaigns are being implemented on the platforms of FREEDOM to support Ukrainian citizens living in the temporarily occupied territories, as well as citizens and residents of the Russian Federation. These include a weekly SMS-mailing for residents of the frontline and temporarily occupied territories; the FREEDOM campaign “If You Know, Tell!” aimed at motivating Russian residents to oppose the forced deportation of Ukrainian children and facilitate their return to Ukraine; support for the DIU projects “I Want to Live” and “I Want to Find”; a chatbot for feedback from Russian residents on violations of their rights and freedoms, and others. Last year, FREEDOM was among the 10 main communication tools of “I Want to Live” state project for the voluntary surrender of Russian servicemen who do not want to fight against Ukraine. 

On the digital platforms of the Dim channel, the State Enterprise IBMPU launched a social initiative to make its own television projects and security information available to people with hearing disabilities in sign language. Ulyana Shumylo, a sign language interpreter at the State Enterprise IBMPU, is adapting part of the content of the Dim channel into sign language. Currently, the projects of the Dim channel, translated into sign language, are available on the channel’s website, on the main Dim YouTube channel in a separate section, and on the newly created Youtube channel Dim TV Channel. Sign Language, which became the first channel in the Ukrainian YouTube segment to present television and security content exclusively in sign language. 

In 2024, the State Enterprise IBMPU intends to launch new media brands in different languages, develop the concept of an English-language TV channel, strengthen and expand the coverage of the Dіm and FREEDOM channels abroad, launch new program product lines on all platforms, support existing social initiatives and information campaigns and launch new ones.

* Measurement of the viewing of the SE IBMPU channels via satellite, on air, in the networks of cable operators in different countries has not been carried out throughout the entire period of the enterprise’s operation due to the high cost of such research. Accordingly, when analyzing the quantitative and qualitative indicators of viewing and requests of the viewing audience of the media brands of the State Enterprise IBMPU, the company focuses on the data of digital platforms, in particular YouTube

** Data are as of 12/31/2023, unless otherwise indicated. Data sources: analytical tools of digital platforms; Google Analytics; YouTube Studio of the SE IBMPU channels.